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Five Hot Topics with Titans Coach Mike Mularkey


PHOENIX —Titans coach Mike Mularkey met with reporters on Tuesday morning here at the NFL owners meetings.

Later, he had a separate session with Titans Online.

Here's a look at some of the hot topics:

Back-up QBs

With starting quarterback Marcus Mariota recovering from surgery, the Titans re-signed veteran Matt Cassel earlier this offseason.

Cassel could play a big role this offseason as Mariota works his way back, Mularkey said.

"I think it was important,'' Mularkey said. "Matt knows his role here, and he is a good fit in that room with our quarterbacks. He and (quarterback) Alex Tanney are going to get a number of reps this offseason to compete really, more than ever because of Marcus and his injury.

"Matt is great for our locker room. He is like another coach on the team."

Mularkey also praised Tanney, who spent 15 weeks last season on the practice squad.

"He is capable of playing at this level, and being successful,'' Mularkey said of Tanney.

Safety rotation, and Byard's role

Mularkey didn't rule out the Titans rotating safeties to some extent again in 2017, even with the recent addition of veteran safety Johnathan Cyprien. In fact, he said he expects it to continue.

Mularkey said it will depend on who the team is playing, and matchups.

"I think it was good the way we did things last year,'' Mularkey said. "That's how we felt about our depth at safety. I think we still have a deep position there. So I see it continuing that way."

In addition to Cyprien, Kevin Byard, Da'Norris Searcy and Curtis Riley are among the safeties returning for this fall. There's a chance the Titans will draft one as well.

Mularkey said he thinks Byard, a third-round pick out of MTSU last season, will show even more improvement in Year 2.

"He is going to get more opportunities, and he is going to play more," Mularkey said of Byard. "I think that second year, coming in there you are not wide-eyed, and intimidated by being a rookie and finding your role on the team. I think he knows what it is and he knows he can be very good at this level."


Weight room/training room upgrades**

The Titans are in the process of expanding/updating the weight room and training room at Saint Thomas Sports Park.

Mularkey called it "Phase 2" of work at facility.

A year ago the team completely changed the look of the locker room and hallways at the facility.

"We are re-doing the weight room and the training room," Mularkey said. "We're just updating it, putting some new equipment in, going to Phase 2 after doing the locker room and a lot of the hallways. We're going onto the next section which is the weight room and the training room.

"We're going to open it up a little bit, have a little more sunlight coming in. So you'll be able to see the field with more windows."

Mularkey said the improvements are important for the players. He gave credit to Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk.

"And I think it is important for the players to see we are trying to change to get better, to be a first-class organization, which I believe we are," Mularkey said. "Now we are trying to show it with our facilities.

"This is just the next part of it. We couldn't do it all in one year, and we're going to continue to upgrade it and make it one of the best facilities in the NFL."


Steckel's "expanded role"**

Mularkey said he's given a bigger role to assistant coach Luke Steckel.

A year ago, Steckel served as an offensive assistant on Mularkey's staff.

Steckel has been promoted to assistant wide receivers coach, where he'll work with new receivers coach Frisman Jackson.

"Luke is a good football coach, and he just needed a chance to move up and have more responsibility,'' Mularkey said. "He is very hard working."

Steckel just completed his fourth season with the Titans. He is the son of former Titans offensive coordinator Les Steckel.

Mariota update

Mularkey was asked plenty about Mariota, and his health.

"His status is good,'' Mularkey said of the Titans quarterback. "His boot is off, he is walking around. You would not know he had an injury. There is no limp or gait in his walk. So he is right on schedule, if not ahead."

Mariota suffered a fractured fibula in the team's loss at Jacksonville on December 24. He underwent surgery, and began rehabbing the injury. He's spent a good portion of the offseason at the University of Oregon, but recently returned home to Hawaii, where he's continuing to rebab the injury.

Mularkey said the next step in his rehab is to strengthen the muscles.

Mularkey acknowledged on Tuesday Mariota's injury was "more extensive" than the one suffered by Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who suffered a fractured fibula the same day. Carr is reportedly far along in his recovery process, and is expected to take part in offseason work.

"He is very upbeat, he can't wait to get back,'' Mularkey said of Mariota. "And we monitor every day what he does."

Mularkey once again said the Titans will be patient with Mariota.

He didn't completely rule out Mariota taking part in some offseason work, however. Mariota is expected to be ready for training camp at the end of July.

"We're just going to listen to the doctors, listen to Marcus and see how he feels. We will allow him to do what he is capable of doing,'' Mularkey said.

"Marcus is working hard, and hopefully he'll be back sooner than later, I think that is what he wants to do. We are just going to wait and see … and we have time. I am not going to push him.

"If we have to adjust some things we do in practice to what he is capable of doing, we'll do that. As long as he is ready to go Week 1 that is all that matters to the team."

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